Have You Been to The Opera Browser Lately?
Opera, the little browser with the little desktop market share, is making some waves. Its latest innovation is an Android app that compresses data to conserve mobile data allowances. If you aren’t entirely happy with any of the Big Three, Opera is worth looking at for your desktop or mobile browser.
What's New With Opera?
Opera Software has always been focused on being the lightest-weight, speediest, most data-parsimonious browser. As an alternative to Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Firefox, it performs admirably. Its new Max data-compression app is a significant stride in that direction. It saves data transmission costs of all kinds of traffic, not just HTML (web page) traffic as the Opera Browser does. Instagram, Vine, Google Drive, and any other online service can benefit from Opera Max.
Opera Max uses a new compression technology called Skyfire, whose developer Opera acquired in 2013. Opera Max sets up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection between your mobile device and Opera’s servers. On the servers, your unencrypted data is compressed as much as 50 percent and returned to your phone. It is then transmitted over the cellular network in less time and at less cost.
Another money-saving feature of Opera Max is its ability to switch off cellular service when WiFi is available, using the least costly transmission method. It also lets you control other apps, restricting them to WiFi use only to save money.
While Opera Max compresses all types of unencrypted data, its best performance is on video files. Another caveat is that it does not work over encrypted connections, so you won’t see any compression when using Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, banking sites, or other Web sites where SSL connections are found.
Opera Max and Friends
To avoid overloading its servers, Opera Max is currently adding users on a controlled basis. You can sign up and wait for an invitation to join the Opera Max network by downloading the app and installing it. Opera Max is free if you are willing to put up with ads, or a dollar per month for ad-free service. Like all Internet businesses that offer free content or online services, advertising is part of Opera Software’s evolving business model.
The company also owns the Mediaworks ad network that's used to deliver mobile ads on behalf of clients including BMW, Canon, Samsung, Google, Netflix, Lexus, Universal, 20th Century Fox, and Sony. Many people are not happy about Opera getting into the ad business, but Mediaworks grossed $43 million in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Opera also acquired the Handster app store development firm in 2013, which led to the Opera Mobile Store http://apps.opera.com/en_us/ where you can find over 200,000 apps for phones running on Android, Symbian, BlackBerry, iOS, and Java. More than 105 million users are downloading apps from the Opera Mobile Store.
A corporation’s got to eat, and Opera is an important innovator in the browser space that deserves to thrive.
For completeness, I should mention that the Chrome browser for both Android and iOS have a data compression feature baked in. By turning on the "Reduce data usage" option in Chrome mobile, one can reduce mobile data usage by 50%. This works by sending the web page requests through a Google proxy server, which does the data compression. Like the Opera Max app, only non-encrypted traffic can be compressed. To enable it in the Chrome app, tap Settings, then Bandwidth Management, then "Reduce data usage" and toggle it on or off. Note that this feature only compresses web data that flows through the Chrome browser, while Opera Max does data compression for any app on your Android phone.
Opera's desktop browser focuses on speed, standards and style. The Off-Road mode performs data compression like Opera Max does for mobile devices. Give Opera a try, and check out how it makes searching, exploring, organizing and "stashing" Web content very easy. There's no reason you can't have multiple browsers on your desktop, laptop, or mobile gadget. Even if you're happy with Internet Explorer, Chrome or Firefox, Opera is worth a try.
Branching out from its narrow focus on browsers seems to have been good for Opera. Its attention remains on efficient, data-conserving Internet communication, which seems like a winning strategy. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 6 Mar 2014
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